With dozens of medical-marijuana dispensaries proliferating all around town, authorizing doctors openly advertising their services, and a newly opened cannabis farmers market, it often seems as if the local medical-pot business is going gangbusters. But according to the first methodical analysis of the industry nationwide, released yesterday, Washington has a long way to go to catch up to the market's true heavy-hitters: California and Colorado.
Reached by SWthis morning, See Change head Kris Lotlikar declines to provide market figures for each state, though he says he's "getting a lot of pressure" to do so from reporters. He's released only an executive summary to the public (see pdf), and is selling more detailed information.
Yet the summary does give this key figure: California and Colorado together represent 92 percent of the market (with California by far the bigger player of the two). Doing a little math, that means the other 14 jurisdictions, including this state, are splitting $104 million in revenue. Divided equally, that would be about $7 million each.
The distance between that significant figure and the massive industry in California is evident simply by walking down a street in Seattle and in, say, Los Angeles--or Venice, Calif., where The New Yorker's Susan Orlean visited recently. In an entertaining blog post yesterday about her trip, she writes that "every other storefront is a doctor's office--walk-ins welcome." Those offices, of course, are handing out marijuana authorizations. She continues:
Part of what makes the whole thing so funny is the absolute ease with which anyone, for any reason, can get a prescription. You almost expect the doctors in their open-air beach offices to be wearing Mad Hatter costumes.
That is exactly why our state legislators are now debating what restrictions should be placed on doctors authorizing medical marijuana. Yesterday, a House committee, voting on a sweeping bill that would regulate the industry, approved a stipulation that would prevent health-care providers from operating businesses solely for the purpose of providing medical-marijuana authorizations. (See a pdf of the version of the bill passed by the committee.)
Medical-marijuana advocates hate the provision, naturally, but others see it as a way of keeping the local industry--and Mad Hatter doctors--in check.